From my hospital bed...

Hey there! So before you get too worked up about me being in the hospital, let me just say I am okay! I don't think I've talked about it on my blog before, but I have cystic fibrosis and that's what today's post is about.

For those of you who don't know, cystic fibrosis is a genetic disorder of the pancreas that causes the body to produce excessive amounts of extremely thick and sticky mucus. The main mucus linings in the body are in the sinuses, digestive organs, and lungs- so these are the main areas of the body affected by CF. There are different genotypes of CF and each one has different parts of the body being affected in different degrees, but ultimately most people with CF have a hard time digesting their food, maintaining weight, absorbing vitamins and nutrients from their food, and are at a high risk for respiratory infections. A cold can be very dangerous for someone with CF.

I'm in the hospital because...

I developed a lung infection, didn't get proper treatment for it, and caught a virus on top of that. Even mere colds can be severe and serious for people with CF, although I am lucky enough to have a very mild case of CF and usually a little cold doesn't bother me much. I am rarely sick and have only been hospitalized three times for my CF,  but this is unusual for CF patients. Most people with CF spend time in the hospital every year.

I wanted to write this post for a few reasons- first because I don't know anyone else with CF. We are generally kept away from each other so we do not pass CF related lung infections back and forth to each other. This is important for our health, but it sometimes makes me feel alone even though I know I'm not. This post is first to say HELLO FELLOW CF-ers! We are awesome! I can't get to know you in person, but we can still be internet friends! Come say hello.

I'm going to do a little post about tips for making hospital stays more comfortable and what I packed before being admitted to the hospital- that post should be out in a few days! Subscribe to my blog to get email notifications when new posts come out!

The second reason I wanted to write this post is because I've learned a tough lesson these past few months, and I think it's something important to share with both the herbalist community and the Cystic Fibrosis community.

I'm a baby herbalist, obviously...

I still have so much to learn, but I know a little bit and I love applying what I know about plants and holistic health to my own lifestyle and to support my CF care. However, I was really struggling with drawing the line between herbal methods and the professional health care cystic fibrosis requires.

When I started my journey into herbalism, I had a very black-and-white, all-or-nothing approach. I didn't want any of my CF meds. I wanted to "do it myself." And I did very well, for a while, but when I did start to get sick, I was stubborn about it. I didn't have health insurance, so I didn't go see a doctor, I just tried to have some more of my herbal lung tea, took a few tinctures, used saline sinus rinses, and added bee propolis and some multivitamins to my daily routine. It did seem to help for a while, but it wasn't enough. I went on like that for five months- until about a week ago when I caught a virus that made it just impossible to breathe on top of the lung infection I was already struggling with.

I finally had to admit to myself and to my friends and family that I couldn't do this alone.

So humiliated, frustrated, and terrified for my health, I packed a bag and went to the hospital to be admitted. In my experience, CF lung infections usually require a two-week hospitalization full of IV and inhaled antibiotics- so that's what I'm prepared for. We are a few days into my stay and I am already doing much better than expected, so hopefully I will only have to be treated for two weeks, despite letting this infection rage on for months... Follow me on social media for updates on this, I'll keep you posted.

What I've come to realize is that health is not an all-or-nothing thing- at least not when you have a chronic illness. I do love to keep things simple, to use natural methods and plants and make positive lifestyle changes whenever possible to support my health, but there is a time and a place for professional medical care and prescription medications. And as far as herbalism goes, something I've learned both from experience and from my herbal courses at The Herbal Academy of New England is that herbalism is intended to support the treatment of disease, not to treat disease exclusively.

I am not any less of an herbalist for respecting that, or for taking the traditional medical help and medications when my body needs them.

I thought I could beat CF down with sheer will-power and a healthy lifestyle, and maybe in a perfect world I could, but in the real world that's just not realistic, and that's okay! I don't need to be ashamed when my body needs a little extra help.

I don't have to do it all. I'm not weak for needing help. I'm human and my human body needs doctors and medicine sometimes. I'm okay with that now- and I'm so grateful to have such an amazing medical team standing with me. I definitely wouldn't be where I am today without my CF team! Shout out to St. Luke's Cystic Fibrosis Center of Idaho!! You guys are the best!

And to any other CFers out there reading this, if you've been feeling ashamed, frustrated, or just out of control, I just want you to know it's not your fault you are sick and you are not any less of a strong and wonderful person for needing help. You've got this! I'm no doctor, but if you ever need a friend I'm here! Comments can be made on this post publicly and anonymously, so don't be afraid to get in there. Let's fight CF together.

I know this post was a little scattered, I'm going to blame that on the hospital brain, but thank you for reading!

Have the best day!

Jessica Peña

P.S. I offer special discounts on my private coaching packages for people with cystic fibrosis and other chronic illnesses. Contact me at for discount details!

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